Afghanistan Population Movement: The Tragedy of Suffering Families

24 Mar 2016

Afghanistan Population Movement: The Tragedy of Suffering Families

KABUL - The United Nations in Afghanistan launched a new bulletin on the population movements that have dominated the news in recent months.

Afghans make up the second largest group of people arriving in Greece after Syrians, with percentages varying from 28 per cent in January to 25 per cent in February.

That rate is an increase from 2015 when some 21 per cent of arrivals through the Mediterranean was represented by Afghanistan.

Figures for 2016 show that women and children make up more than 60 per cent of sea arrivals to Greece, an increase from the 2015 figure of less than 30 per cent.

Mark Bowden, the UN’s Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, writes in the new bulletin: “As well as the wider trends, there have been many tragic stories of small groups of families suffering on their journeys towards what they hope will be a safer and a better life.”

In the new Population Movement Bulletin, Mr. Bowden highlights several significant developments:

  • The massive population movement in recent months is complex in nature, with ambiguity about places of origin, making consideration of returns complicated without careful analysis;
  • Afghan population movement is not exclusively, nor even predominantly, a European issue;
  • In addition to outward migration, internal displacement is a huge issue in Afghanistan;
  • Concerns in European capitals are such that some are questioning sustaining their official development assistance to the countries perceived as sources of population movement.

The UN envoy also notes that the debate in Europe overlooks the fact that Iran and Pakistan have far greater numbers of Afghans – 950,000 in Iran and 1.4 million in Pakistan.

In addition to those who have left Afghanistan, there are estimated to be around 769,665 who have been displaced from their homes but remain in the country.

Mr. Bowden says continued support for Afghanistan “might be questioned, as countries receiving large numbers may find it necessary to use development assistance to support those people, rather than supporting efforts to strengthen the economy in Afghanistan and – hopefully – helping to address one of the causal factors.”

PDF iconDownload a PDF of the Population Movement Bulletin